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Tip-toeing through the Teak Monastery – Inwa, Myanmar

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Our first glipse of the teak monastery

Our first glipse of the teak monastery

Before Amarapura the capital of Myanmar was Inwa, which lies just across the water from Sagaing. Without any bridges on that stretch of the river the only way to get there is by boat. Ours fellow passengers were a mother and child, a riderless motorbike and a pig.

Arriving on the island we were deposited in a small, thatched village. The only items on offer were postcards, soft drinks and horse carts. Without any cars on the island, the only way round is by horse and cart. Unless you happen to have obtained a riderless motorbike on the ferry across…

Horse and cart

Our horse and cart

Afraid that the motorbike owner might be upset, we launched into negotiations with the cart driver. Our driver had warned me to haggle aggressively, and get the price down from the standard starting price of 15,000 to the more acceptable rate of 5,000kyat.

Steeling myself for some haggling I asked the price. “How much for three hours?”

“5,000 kyat for a round trip”

Sharp intake of breath. “That’s much too high. 5,000 seems fairer.”

“OK, 5,000” he sighed.

“Great!”

I’m an idiot…

Abandoned temple

This abandoned temple was on the way to the teak monastery, and a teaser of things to come in Bagan

Teak monastery on stilts

Teak monastery on stilts

Bagaya Kyaung Teak Monastery

This working school is constructed entirely from teak and sits on stilts up to 18m in height.

Like all monasteries in Myanmar no shoes are allowed. Normally this is no problem – either the interior of the buildings are cool or exterior marble paths have been laid which don’t store the suns heat.

One of the few cooler spots in the shade

One of the few cooler spots in the shade

With the entire monastery made of teak every ray from the sun is stored as searing heat in the unshaded wooden decking.

As a result we visited the elegant former Royal Palace by inelegantly tip-toeing around to avoid cooking our bare feet.

Monks attending a lesson

Monks attending a lesson in the Teak Monastery

Creeping round the first corner we found a patch of shade and could see inside, where a monk class was in progress. Seeing us they grinned and waved until the teacher rapped the desk to regain their attention.

We hastily tip-toed away.

Nanmyin Watchtower

Nanmyin Watchtower

Nanmyin Watchtower

Nanmyin is a 27m high stone tower – the final piece left standing of the palace built by King Bagyidaw. An earthquake in 1838 damaged the upper portion and left the rest with a noticeable tilt, earning it the name ‘the leaning tower of Innwa’.

Despite this visitors are not restricted from climbing to the top to get spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

Maha Aungmye Bonzan

Maha Aungmye Bonzan

Maha Aungmye Bonzan

As we reached midday, it was getting too hot to be walking (or riding) around in the sun, so the cool interior of Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery was a welcome relief.

Also known as Me Nu Oak Kyaung, this was built in 1818 at the behest of the wife of King Bagyidaw and is better preserved than his watchtower.

Boat at Inwa

The boat back across the river at Inwa

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Since leaving London in 2006 I’ve travelled, worked, volunteered and lived in over 90 countries. Highlights so far would be driving along the Silk Road from Beijing to Istanbul, a complete circuit of South America and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in Costa Rica. I’m currently back in Beijing, as a base to visit more of Asia and attempt to learn Mandarin.

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